Tag Archives: Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck

The John Lasseter #MeToo Conundrum

What is the appropriate treatment for a leader, executive or artist who has been dismissed, disgraced, and exiled because of credible or proven instances of workplace sexual misconduct?

John Lasseter, the genius Pixar co-founder who was forced to resign from the Walt Disney Company in June after complaints that he engaged in unwanted “grabbing, kissing, and making comments about physical attributes” suddenly raises the question, because he is all of these, and now is one of the first men facing ruin in the #MeToo era to find a new position as impressive and lucrative—seven figures—as his old one.

David Ellison,  “Mission: Impossible” producer and founder of Skydance Media, a newish production company affiliated with Paramount Pictures, announced this week that Lasseter would become Skydance’s head of  animation and will start this month. “John is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated,” Mr. Ellison said in a statement. “We look forward to John bringing all of his creative talents, his experience managing large franchises, his renewed understanding of the responsibilities of leadership and his exuberance to Skydance.”

BUT, he  continued: “We did not enter into this decision lightly. John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them.”

On his own behalf, Lasseter, who was the moving creative force behind multiple Pixar classics like “Toy Story” as well as Disney’s “Frozen,” said that he that he had engaged in “deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made many colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for.” He added that he planned to build Skydance Animation in the same way he built Pixar, but with renewed dedication to the need for “safety, trust and mutual respect.”

Good enough? No, #MeToo is not pleased. Time’s Up, the #MeToo-spawned political group founded by Reese Witherspoon and Shonda Rhimes among others, protested in response to the announcement that offering a high-profile position to an abuser who has yet to show true remorse, work to reform their behavior and provide restitution to those harmed is condoning abuse.” The hire, Time’s Up added in a statement, “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence.”

Got it. Women, at least these women, want to see men ruined, shunned and reduced to living by crowdfunding and begging on the street if possible, without the certainly of due process and regardless of circumstances. How does someone like Lasseter show “true remorse”? They get to decide. What work do they have to do to reform their behavior? That’s the activists’ call too, I suppose. Meanwhile, absent a trial, what is restitution? If the women involved have a lawsuit, let them bring it. What is the cost of an unwanted workplace hug? Continue reading

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2018 Ethics Retrospective Poll #4: The Ethics Train Wrecks!

Nominations for “Ethics Train Wreck Of The Year”

This one is self-explanatory, I think. Don’t automatically default to the obvious choice.

(Still rolling and still being used illicitly to exert gender-based power while undermining civil rights.

(which encompasses “the resistance,” the “Get Trump” campaign by the news media, and the ongoing effort to concoct a justification for impeachment)

(The Parkland shooting aftermath was nothing but a resuscitated and refueled version, with different demagogues, and the same lies)

(Statues are still falling, universities are still purging their histories, and “The Sound of Music” can’t mention Nazis…)

(An offshoot of the Harvey Weinstein express,  and perhaps the canary dying in the mine…)

(So long-running and constant that I forgot to call it one, with the “Think of the Children! caboose.)

The Big Tech Social Media Ethics Train Wreck, which has pulled out of the station, will have to wait a few months before we can assess it…

The poll:

 

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Unethical, Shameless, Gutsy, Creepy Or Thought-Provoking: Kevin Spacey’s Christmas Video

What do we make of this, released by actor Kevin Spacey lastweek almost at the same time as he was being indicted for sexual assault?

Yikes.

The much-acclaimed actor  career collapsed in 2017 as more than 30 people claimed that Spacey had sexually assaulted them. Now he is speaking in the persona—with accent!— of his Netflix series villain, Frank Underwood, the central character of “House of Cards.” Or is he? Much of the speech seems to refer to Spacey’s own plight, and suggests that the actor is being unfairly convicted in the court of public opinion. By using the voice and character of an unequivocal miscreant however, for Frank is a liar, a cheat, a sociopath, indeed a murderer, such protests are automatically incredible.

Or is Spacey making a legitimate argument that an artist’s personal flaws should be irrelevant to the appreciation of his art, especially in a case like “House of Cards,” where the actor’s role can’t possibly be undermined by the actor’s own misdeeds: whatever one says or thinks about Spacey, he can’t  be as bad as Frank Underwood. If you enjoyed watching Underwood destroy lives on his way to power, why should Spacey’s conduct, even if it was criminal, make you give up the pleasure of observing his vivid and diverting fictional creation? This isn’t like Bill Cosby, serially drugging and raping women while playing a wise, moral and funny father-figure. Spacey seems to be arguing that there should be no cognitive dissonance between him and Underwood at all. Who better to play a cur like Frank  than an actor who shares his some of his darkness? Continue reading

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Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/15/2018: A Good Firing, A Good Trend, A Bad Law, An Unethical Complaint, And A Tardy Confession

Rain rain go away; come back another day; Jackie wants to GET THE %$#^&@!!! Christmas tree up and start the annual  10 hour HELL of decorating it!

1. Is Facebook blocking Ethics Alarms? Several readers have reported that their efforts to share posts have been foiled. I can’t post links to it; my last several tries on two different posts have gleaned an error message. No one has shared a post to Facebook anywhere for nine days, which is very unusual. The last Ethics Alarms post with any shares was the “Kiss the Girl” post, which had quite a few.

I also have no idea what to do if Facebook is blocking the blog, and not much motivation to do it. Increasingly I am finding that my Facebook friends are making me lose respect for them with their constant virtue-signaling to the Left and refusal to accept any contrary opinions without stooping to personal insults. The “Facebook community” standards are incompatible with ethics commentary? I’m not surprised, and it can bite me.

I have literally never written anything that would justify social media censorship, assuming fair, responsible and free speech-respecting social media.

2. “The best people.” Ryan Zinke is finally leaving the Cabinet, and the President will be looking for a new Interior Secretary. The former Montana congressman and Navy Seal had an ethically tone-deaf and politically controversial tenure, facing nearly 20 federal investigations ― one of which his agency’s inspector general recently referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal violations. Like Trump himself, Zinke was incapable of recognizing that when you embark on a controversial policy mission, you have to stay squeaky clean, or the news media bring you down. This is simply stupid, arrogant and self-destructive.  Zinke should have been fired months ago.

3. Hooray!The NFL isn’t as criminal as it used to be! I guess that’s something. It was reported that “only” 36  incidents occurred in 2018 that ended in the arrest of an NFL player, down (so far) from 49 last year, and 80 a decade ago.

I guarantee that you can count the parallel incidents in Major League Baseball on one hand, every year.

4. Obamacare was declared unconstitutional in federal court, whatever that means.  I don’t know at this point whether the decision has a prayer of surviving. I do know that the legislation is and was a fiasco, and that this is what one gets when a party decides to rush major legislation through while by-passing the other party, a President repeatedly lies about it to get public support based on misinformation, and the bill is voted on with few, if any, legislators actually reading the law.

I also continue to marvel at the number of otherwise intelligent Americans who continue to idolize President Obama, who is responsible for this mess and claims it as his “signature achievement”—all while the same Americans rail about President Trump’s “lies.” He has not made a single misstatement in the past two years that has been a fraction as consequential as Obama’s lie about the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

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Analysis: Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s #MeToo Accusations And His Response

Oh, great…the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is still making stops and picking up passengers. This time the target is Neil deGrasse Tyson who someone, actually several somones, decided was a powerful man too full of himself who needed to be taken down a peg or sixty, and thus he has been accused–Democratic Senators would say “credibly” accused—of two episodes of sexual harassment and one rape. This is no trivial matter for Tyson, whose carefully constructed image as the new Carl Sagan is now in real danger. So is his job, his celebrity, his reputation and perhaps his marriage.

The three accusations belong in two boxes. The two sexual harassment claims may bolster each other, for harassing is an attitude, a habit, and a form of ethics blindness. Real harassers never do it just once. Rape is something else entirely, and, obviously, far more serious, since it is a crime.

Let’s examine each of the accusations, and Tyson’s defense, which he issued in a long Facebook post over the weekend.

Accusation #1:

Workplace Harassment: Hostile work environment and Unwanted sexual advances (2018)

Ashley Watson, who began a job as Dr. Tyson’s assistant on “Cosmos” in the spring, told an interviewer that on one occasion he asked if she would like to come to his home to share a bottle of wine and “unwind for a couple of hours.” She agreed to come in for one glass, she said, believing that they were going to talk about work and her future assignments.

Once in the astronomer’s apartment, she said, he told her that “as human beings, we all need release,” and asked if there were any “releases” she needed.  (Oh-oh!) As she began to leave a while later,  and he asked if she would let her show her  a Native American handshake.” This required clasping their hands together , finding the pulse on the other person’s wrist, and looking into each other’s eyes. (Super Oh-oh, and also “You’ve got to be kidding me.”) She says that it made her uncomfortable, and she broke it off after about 10 seconds.

As she was again trying to leave, she says Dyson commented, “I want you to know that I want to hug you so bad right now, but I know that if I do I’ll just want more.”

Then, the next day, he told her, “You say you want to be a producer, but it’s always going to be an uphill battle for you because you’re too distracting.”

She says told a supervisor ,a line producer,about what had happened, and that she was quitting.. The supervisor, asked Watson if she wanted to file a complaint. She said no. The supervisor suggested she tell her co-workers that she was leaving because of a family emergency, which she did.

Comment: If accurately described, this is slam dunk sexual harassment. The apartment visit is an extension of the workplace. If it is a veiled “date,” Tyson has crossed a line because he is the woman’s supervisor with hiring and firing power. She cannot consent meaningfully. The release comment, depending on the delivery and context, is creepy and plausibly sexual in intent, unless he also said, “Me? I like to watch baseball. How about you?” The “Native American handshake” sounds like a nifty version of the old “shoulder rub.” Now there has been touching, and forced eye-gazing. Ew. The last comment at the apartment  is also a sexual advance, especially in context with the rest.

Tyson’s Explanation: Not good. In his Facebook post,  Tyson described the handshake as one he uses “in appreciation of people with whom I’ve developed new friendships.” He said that at work, Ms. Watson freely offered hugs, which he typically rejected, but that on a few occasions, he “clumsily declared, ‘If I hug you I might just want more.’”

“My intent was to express restrained but genuine affection,” he wrote.

He also wrote that . Watson had come into his office after the incident in his apartment and told him she had been “creeped out.” He said he had “apologized profusely” and that she had accepted the apology.

Comment: Tyson’s defense is essentially “I didn’t mean anything by it, she construed it the wrong way, and anyway, she accepted my apology.” Those are three excuses, none of which carried any weight in sexual harassment cases. It’s what the harasser did, and how the harassed felt about it. His apology and her acceptance of it, even if true, doesn’t undo the event. The encounter and his words  made her uncomfortable working with him, and objectively, anyone can see why. It is also interesting that Tyson doesn’t deny the “release” conversation, or his later comment about her being a distraction.

Since Watson had to leave her job, this episode could justify a lawsuit for sexual harassment.

Accusation #2: Sexual assault (2009)

Continue reading

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Sunday Ethics Rundown, 11/25/ 18: Liberty Games

Good Morning!

1. Baraboo hangover. Apparently the Wisconsin male high school students who gave a Nazi salute in an off-campus photo will not be punished. The superintendent overseeing Baraboo High, Lori Mueller of the Baraboo School District, said in the letter that the district was “not in a position to punish the students for their actions” because of their First Amendment rights. That’s right from a Constitutional viewpoint, and something good will come of the incident if it means that schools will stop punishing students for what they post on social on their own time. Here is the photo, in case you have forgotten…

The Times article sure is full of dissembling and nonsense, however. Peter Gust, the jerk who took and posted the photo, claims that it had been modified by “malevolent behavior on the part of some in society.” Sure. Jordan Blue, the boy in the upper right hand corner in the red tie, has embraced the role of ethics hero in the media, and is grandstanding and virtue signaling like mad, saying that he didn’t have time to leave the photo but that he didn’t raise his arm because “I knew what my morals were and it was not to salute something I didn’t firmly believe in.” Uh, that should be “firmly didn’t believe in,” Jordan. Then there is Brock Turkington, also  in the photograph, whose story is that  “As we were about to take that photo, the photographer instructed the boys to give a ‘high-sign.” The photographer instructed us to extend our arms out, no one knew what a ‘high-sign’ was. I asked another student next to me ‘What are we doing?’ He responded, ‘Stick your arm out.’” But that’s not a “high-sign.” That’s a Heil-sign.

2. I won a bet with myself! Cracked, the list and pop culture commentary website that evolved out of a cheap Mad Magazine rip-off from the Sixties, has a feature called “5 Laws From Other Countries (The USA Should Totally Steal).” Cracked is dominated by smug, if clever, social justice warriors, so I made a bet with myself that the list would contain  several concepts that were unconstitutional or that would advance the Left’s dream of perpetual power. (By the way, you can’t “steal” a law.) Sure enough, the tally was three out of five. I win!!! Continue reading

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Conclusion: If #MeToo Has No Integrity, Then It Is Doomed, And Deserves To Be

When the #MeToo movement emerged, the idea appeared to be that women (and men!) should speak out about sexual assault and sexual harassment, that powerful people should not feel entitled to take physical liberties with others, and that the culture needed to unequivocally and clearly condemn such conduct. Like most abstract concepts, it sounded good in theory, until—

—the question about what constituted sexual assault and harassment remained unanswered, because in so many cases it is a matter of perception and perspective.

—basic due process and the presumption of innocence were ignored, minimized, or jettisoned entirely, turning the accused into victims themselves

—Democrats sought to weaponized the movement politically, raising questions about motive, equal justice, and bias, and turning what should have been a bi-partisan movement into a cynical partisan one.

—The “women must be believed” mantra, discriminatory, unjust and ridiculous on its face, became part of the narrative and burst into open misandry and outrageous double standards.

Then the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck collided head-on with the Brett Kavanaugh Ethics Train Wreck, and here we are among ethical and cultural carnage.

Good job, everybody!

Now here’s where we are: Continue reading

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